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Only 7% of GCC board seats are held by women

  • Women in leadership positions underrepresented in the GCC
  • Better hiring habits, training and support for work-life balance needed
  • Gulf government initiatives aim to improve gender equity across sectors

Only 7 percent of board seats in the GCC are held by women compared to 20 percent globally, a report by Bain & Company says.

“There is an issue in retaining, mentoring and supporting women to make it all the way to CEO positions and the board,” said Karen Khalaf, partner at Bain & Company Dubai during a video interview with AGBI.

“The overall number of female employees might be 30-40 percent,” she said, “but many will be in junior positions.”

Of the women surveyed by Bain & Company, 70 percent mentioned gender bias and stereotypes as the primary challenge, along with inadequate hiring processes, lack of training, and support for work-life balance.

GCC governments are taking initiatives to ensure gender equity across sectors which has resulted in increased representation of women in the workforce over the years. Female participation has risen to 60 percent in Qatar and 53 percent in the UAE. 

But even in sectors like healthcare and retail which have a high number of women employees, the number of females in leadership positions is consistently low. 

“We haven’t seen any significant differences across sectors when we are talking about women in boards and management positions,” said Khalaf.

Watch the full video to hear more of Khalaf’s thoughts and an interview with Patrick Chalhoub, president of luxury retail conglomerate Chalhoub Group.